In a move to call out competitors, the chain is asking the industry to strictly define what can be sold as an “egg.”

Zee Krstic
January 24, 2018

Panera has always taken its mission of bringing the freshest ingredients to its menu seriously—and has no problem calling out competitors in an effort to highlight just how much work they put into being the healthiest fast casual restaurant out there.

But the latest ploy to raise awareness of the healthier alternatives to fast food at Panera might have a few people scratching their heads. Fortune reports that Panera has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to define what an egg is.

Yes, the FDA currently doesn’t have a definition for what properly constitutes an egg—according to their regulations, “no regulation shall be promulgated fixing and establishing a reasonable definition and standard of identity for the food commonly known as eggs.” Meaning, there’s no legal need to define what an egg.

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Which might strike you as common sense, given that eggs are probably one of the most distinct food items on the market. But you shouldn’t be too shocked to hear that, as Fortune reports, some of Panera’s competitors in the breakfast arena, like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Taco Bell, are selling “eggs” that contain five or more ingredients.

RELATED: This Is What Nutritionists Order at Panera

So Panera is trying to get the government to legally recognize a “well, duh” definition—where eggs “reflect a food made from a cracked shell egg without addition of additives or further processing.” This is part of a marketing campaign, of course, for a new breakfast sandwich that features a runny, over-easy egg.

Photo: Bloomberg / Contributor / Getty

But it's not a terrible idea. A popular breakfast sandwich at Starbucks, for comparison, contains a laundry list of additives in addition to “whole eggs”: less alarming staples such as skim milk, but also eyebrow-raising preservatives like xanthan gum, citric acid, and dicalcium phosphate.

Eggs (ones that aren't cooked all the way through, at least) have traditionally been difficult to bring to fast food chain restaurants. CNBC reports that it took Panera more than 18 months to nail their cooking technique for a safe egg. This is especially important, as no company wants to be accused of potentially threatening their customers' health. (Here's why you should never shrug off a food recall.)

We applaud Panera’s ability to call it as they see it, but we’re betting most of you have a pretty good understanding of what an egg is, and how a real egg should taste. If you're worried that your breakfast sandwich has an "egg" that belongs in quotes, maybe the answer is to make a better breakfast sandwich at home.